Countries with Universal Health Care

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Is it time for an universal health care system (Medicare-for-all) in the United States?

The question whether universal health care plan should be implemented in United States has lingered on for years. There have been debates and arguments whether universal health care is the ideal solution to give millions of American who cannot afford health insurance a lifeline.

Many presidents including the current administration have considered the option for the implementation of universal health care in U.S but none of them have been bold enough to implement full  universal health care rather some small version of it that meant to target only a small group of people have been implemented such as Medicaid and Obamacare.

Currently, United State is the only wealthy, industrialized, developed nation that does not have a structured universal health care system. Furthermore United States and Mexico are the only member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) without universal health care. What is being practiced in United States now is highly fragmented system where only few people secure private insurance from their place of work and very few others enjoy the government-sponsored insurance in the form of Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare. Altogether there are still millions of Americans that are not receiving adequate health care simply because they cannot afford to. These numbers exceeded 45 million Americans and most made up of hardworking Americans who their work does not provide any form of health insurance because either the employer does not provide it or the employer share of the premium is too expensive.

Most private funded insurance that comes from workplace in most cases do not provide complete coverage. The coverage they offer varies; some plans do not cover necessary services such as prescription drugs. Moreover what you pay from your own when you actually access care varies and have different levels of copayments, deductibles and copayments attached to them. Finally, most of these types of insurances restrict the beneficiary to certain hospital or doctor.

Like Bernie Sanders believed; it is time for universal health care plan to be implemented in United States. This is because the current health care plan that existed in United States is:

  • Expensive: There is no-gainsaying that United States actually spends more per person to access health care more than any other country of the world.
  • No capacity for cost control: Private health workers charges high cost that keeps on rising year after year than those of other developed countries
  • Highly Discriminatory: The current health care shows disparities among class, age, gender, race, and even ethnicity.
  • Leads to very poor health outcomes: Lives are not improving under current health care system in fact lives are getting shorter.

Is Healthcare a Human Right?

Right to health means that every citizen has the right to access the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health that consist of  access to all medical services, adequate food, sanitation, healthy working conditions, decent housing and a clean environment. When there is right to health, it implies that medicines, clinics, hospitals, and doctors’ services must be accessible, available, and acceptable of standard quality for everyone on an equitable basis in every situation.

The debate whether health care is basic human right or not have been a long one, we will take a look at it very different perspectives.

According the Journal of American Medical Association, the Physicians for National Health Program (PNHP) which is a 17,000 member national physician organization that are advocating for a universal single-payer national health program wrote that “access to a comprehensive health care is human right” —- They go on further to state that “it is the responsibility of the society, through it government to assure this right to its citizens”.

Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) wrote on their website in Sep 23, 2009 that “We believe that health care is a right, not a privilege or a commodity hence everyone in the United States should have the right to health care”.

The United Methodist Church in March 25, 2010, wrote on their website that “health care is a basic human right… provision of the care that is required to maintain health, prevent disease and restore health after injury or illness is a responsibility every person owes others and government owes to all”.

Americans like other developed countries should have right to health care after all the Declaration of Independence says that there are specific “inalienable rights” which consists of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Therefore if Americans believe in these inalienable rights to life, American citizens should have right to health care that help them live longer and healthier.

Countries with Universal Health Care

Canada passed “Canada Health Act” in 1984 which prohibits doctors from billing extra payments from their patients while at same time billing the public insurance system.

The Universal health care in Canada is mostly funded by the public however most of the services are provided by the private enterprises. Most hospitals in Canada are owned by the government but most doctors don’t receive annual salary rather they are paid a fee per service. Private sector or individuals still pays about 29% of Canada health care which mostly goes towards services that are not covered in the insurance.

France is another developed country that has a universal health care which the government financed through the system of national health insurance. France universal health care is considered one of the best in the world.

All the countries that belong to United Kingdom have a “National Health Service” which provides public comprehensive health care to all the legal UK permanent residents. The health care is provided to all those that qualified for free at the point of need and it is funded from the general taxation.

In 1995, Taiwan government instituted a universal healthcare known as “National Health Insurance (NHI)”. This type of health care is a single-payer compulsory social insurance plan. The system guarantees equal access to health care to every member of the citizen. By 2004, those covered by this Taiwan health insurance have reached 99% of the population

Singapore has one of the most successful health care systems in the world in terms of its financing and efficiency. The universal health care system in Singapore ensures affordability through compulsory savings and price controls. Private sector provides most of the health care and the government overall spending is just about 3% of annual GDP. About 66% funding for Singapore universal health care system comes from private sources.

Other countries that practice Universal Health Care System includes

Country Start Date of
Universal Health Care
System Type

Norway 1912 Single Payer
New Zealand 1938 Two Tier
Japan 1938 Single Payer
Germany 1941 Insurance Mandate
Belgium 1945 Insurance Mandate
United Kingdom 1948 Single Payer
Kuwait 1950 Single Payer
Sweden 1955 Single Payer
Bahrain 1957 Single Payer
Brunei 1958 Single Payer
Canada 1966 Single Payer
Netherlands 1966 Two-Tier
Austria 1967 Insurance Mandate
United Arab Emirates 1971 Single Payer
Finland 1972 Single Payer
Slovenia 1972 Single Payer
Denmark 1973 Two-Tier
Luxembourg 1973 Insurance Mandate
France 1974 Two-Tier
Australia 1975 Two Tier
Ireland 1977 Two-Tier
Italy 1978 Single Payer
Portugal 1979 Single Payer
Cyprus 1980 Single Payer
Greece 1983 Insurance Mandate
Spain 1986 Single Payer
South Korea 1988 Insurance Mandate
Iceland 1990 Single Payer
Hong Kong 1993 Two-Tier
Singapore 1993 Two-Tier
Switzerland 1994 Insurance Mandate
Israel 1995 Two-Tier

What are the drawbacks if we have single-payer health care in the US?

There are various disadvantages that may hinder Universal health care system in United States which includes:

  • It will increase the waiting list in hospitals making it hard to receive fast and adequate care at when needed
  • The lack of competition that will come from implementation of single-payer system will lower the quality of research
  • You can’t compare statistics from two countries
  • It will lower the quality of health care one can receive
  • It will lead to lack of confidentiality as the government has the power to demand access to personal information of patients that would have been kept secret.

2 Responses

  1. Ruqayyah
    | Reply

    I am in favor of the single payer health care system.

  2. Edwin Jordan
    | Reply

    Israel has a very good model and leaves room for choice yet is universal; America would do well to copy it.

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